Eagles escape with NAC victory over UMF

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FARMINGTON, Maine -- Husson University took an 18-point second-half command and held on to survive the University of Maine at Farmington 74-70 in North Atlantic Conference men's basketball play tonight at Dearborn Gymnasium.

The Beavers dropped to 15-9 (14-3 NAC) with Thomas College at home Saturday in their regular-season finale at 3 p.m. The Eagles upped their record to 12-11 (11-5) with Johnson State College at home Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Ben Johnson (Manchester, Maine) impressed with his 11th double-double on the season, including a career-high 26 points and 12 points for the Beavers, while Joe McCloskey (Howland, Maine) also recorded double-digit points (11) and boards (career-best 14). Yusuf Iman (Auburn, Maine) also reached double-figures with 11 points.

Phil Leighton (Naples, Maine) led a balanced Husson effort with 12 points followed by Wes Murphy (Norwich, Conn.) with 11 points and Daeshawn McMorrin (Naugatuck, Conn.) with 10 points. Eerily similiar to an earlier meeting between the two teams -- a 67-64 UMF after Husson led by 18 points on Jan. 19 -- a Leighton basket with 7:21 to play put the Eagles into a commanding 64-46 advantage and the Beavers rallied to within three points twice in the final 29 seconds, but Husson managed to hold on for the win.

UMF, among the nation's best at 3-point makes per game (sixth, 9.8) were limited to 3-21 (14.3 percent) from beyond the arc. For the contest, Husson shot 48.3 percent (29-60) to the Beavers' 34.8 percent (24-68).  From the foul line, UMF connected on 19 of 30 attempts with the Eagles making 7 of 10.

Leighton alternated baskets with 3-poiners by Murphy and McMorrin to string together a  10-2 run and help Husson out to a 28-20 advantage with 7:49 until halftime. An 8-2 span, capped by another McMorrin three, made it 36-24 and the Eagles scored the final four points of the half to lead 40-26 at intermission.

The Beavers netted the first nine points of the second half with a Pet Sumner (Cramerton, N.C.) trey making it 40-35 with 15:32 to go. An 8-2 spurt by the Eagles gave the visitors a 53-40 lead with 10:25 to play and advantage ballooned to 64-46 on Leighton's hoop with 7:21 to go.

UMF outscored Husson 14-4 over the next three minutes to allow the Beavers back into the game with an Iman layup with 4:18 remaining to make it 68-60. Following an Eric Modica (Kittery, Maine) hoop, UMF made five of eight foul shots, while holding Husson scoreless, to cut the lead to 70-65 with 1:33 to go.

Jon Klages (Freeport, Maine) put the Eagles back to a 71-65 lead with a free throw, but Johnson followed with a putback to make it 71-67 with 43 seconds remaining and followed a Husson turnover with one of two from the line to get to 71-68.

McMorrin hit two foul shots with 27 seconds to go to give the Eagles a 73-68 lead, but McCloskey answered with a lay-in to get the Beavers back to 73-70 with 11 seconds left. Leighton made one of two at the line with nine seconds to go and UMF was unable to connect on a shot in its last possession as the Eagles escaped with the 74-70 victory.

Ben Johnson Joe McCloskey Yusuf Iman Dan Kane Kevin Leary